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Researchers have found a new way to detect a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer in the future.

Researchers have recently identified a series of gene markers that, when present with family history of the disease, increase a patient’s risk of prostate cancer more than nine times. Those markers, say researchers, can be detected in a simple saliva or blood sample — good news for a condition whose prognosis is improved by early detection.

Research shows that because the variants are common in the general population and their collective association with cancer is so strong, these findings may help doctors move more quickly into the next phase of prostate cancer research: “How to predict individual risk for prostate cancer and catch it early.” Dr. Xu, one of the authors of a study revealing this new information, will offer a personal genetic test and will be the world’s first genetic screen for a specific disease.

Xu says his new genetic test — which would require patients to send in blood or saliva samples to be screened for the variants identified in the study — would complement established methods. “We’re devoted to improving the situation,” says Xu, estimating that his test would cost a few hundred dollars, and could eventually be included in standard health care. “We want to make this very affordable.”

Dr. Xu’s test may help identify at-risk patients more accurately and earlier

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